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|The green head of The Mantis is the key design feature. (Courtesy of Mantis Golf)|
One of the great joys of attending the annual PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando is perusing the new products, accessories and equipment.
As far as equipment goes, the putters always draw my attention. Because putters are as much about feel and look as they are about technology, and because visual features can serve as alignment aids and focal points, and because putter head shapes are so variable, the creativity that can be applied to putter design seems boundless.
Even a feature as trivial as color can serve a defining role in putter performance. Such is the case with one of the most eye-catching new putters I stumbled across at the 2013 PGA Merchandise Show -- The Mantis.
When I rolled a few putts with The Mantis ($179) in their booth at the Show, I was struck by the weight, which was a bit less than the size of the mallet head might suggest, and the great feel of the polyurethane face insert. And, of course, by the verdant green of the putter head.
I asked Michael Dill the story. Dill is a marketing guy, as it turns out, and he's very visually attuned. Dill and business partner Chris Maher zeroed in on the idea that, especially with today's oddly-shaped putters, people get distracted, their eyes drawn from the ball to the putter head as it swings back. And this, goes the theory, results in missed putts.
"Golf instructors tell you to keep your eye on the ball, yet most putter designs compete with the ball for attention," Dill said. "Mantis lets the ball be the hero. The green finish is not a design element, but rather a functional benefit helping the putter head blend into the putting turf beneath."
Of course, some fairly successful golfers, including Jack Nicklaus, do watch the putter head go back and through rather than keeping their eye on the ball. Dill, however, is correct in stating that most instructors recommend keeping your eye on the ball.
So I requested a Mantis to take out to the course and try for myself.
The Mantis crawled out of its winter repose at the Long Bay Club in Longs, S.C., and it felt and looked just as good as it did at the PGA Merchandise Show.
The mallet head is broad but graceful. The one cosmetic design feature I would like to have seen is a slightly more scooped-out back, so one could use it to pick the ball up off the putting surface on conceded putts. I pointed this out to the youthful Dill at the Show, but the suggestion was laughed off. (Just wait until he gets old and develops a sore lower back.)
The white polyurethane face insert provides exquisite feel, signaling off-center strikes nicely via both sound and tactile response up through the soft and stylish white-and-green grip.
Directionality proved to be a bit of a problem, however. I discovered that The Mantis is not exactly face-balanced. Most modern mallet putters are face-balanced or have a slight toe-drop, which serves to square up the putter face as the hands rotate a bit through impact.
The Mantis, in contrast, has a slight heel-drop (the heel is a bit heavier than the toe). As a result, as my hands rotated slightly through impact, the lighter toe closed a tad too quickly, and I missed several early putts to the left of the hole. When I consciously kept my hands open, the putts rolled true; however, on a few greens, this conscious attention to my hands ended up leaving them a tad too open, and I pushed those putts to the right. If I were to incorporate The Mantis into my bag, I'd put a little lead tape on the toe to create true face-balance.
The visual appeal and feel of The Mantis are exceptional. This green machine really does promote concentration on the ball and the unobtrusive white alignment aid on the crown of the putter head. The color scheme will be attractive to both men and women golfers. The ball gets rolling quickly and very true.
The 350-gram weight of The Mantis is somewhat less than many comparably sized mallet putters, so if you're thinking about transitioning to a mallet from a lighter Anser-style or blade putter, this would be an excellent option.
Most of all, if you tend to push a lot of putts, the slight heel-drop of The Mantis will encourage you to get the face closed at impact. But if you use a gate-style square-to-open-to-closed stroke, you might find the gate closing a bit too early. If you have a natural straight-back-and-through stroke, the weighting might not be an issue.
For more information, visit mantisgolfco.com.
April 18, 2013
Kiel Christianson has lived, worked, traveled and golfed extensively on three continents. As senior writer and equipment editor for WorldGolf.com, he has reviewed courses, resorts, and golf academies from California to Ireland, including his home course, Lake of the Woods G.C. in Mahomet, Illinois. Read his golf blog here.
Putters have evolved tremendously in the past couple of decades, especially with respect to visuals: larger, strategically weighted heads with multiple alignment aids are now common. Cleveland Golf has taken alignment aids to a new level -- a brilliantly simple yet effective new level. The Smart Square Putter combines parallel and perpendicular lines for alignment with a firmer copolymer insert to create a remarkably effective mallet.
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